At least 762 lawsuits have been filed by U.S. grain farmers and grain exporters such as Cargill Inc. and Archer Daniels Midland Co. against seed maker Syngenta AG over Agrisure Viptera corn, also known as MIR 162. The lawsuits allege damages arising from China’s rejections of U.S. corn exports containing traces of the Viptera corn, but now Reuters reports that Syngenta may be considering counterclaims.
Syngenta released MIR 162 genetically modified corn in 2009, but Chinese regulators did not approve it until five years later. After shipments were found to contain MIR 162, China adopted a zero-tolerance policy regarding genetically modified corn and began halting shipments of American corn in November 2013, barring nearly 1.45 billion tons of corn and resulting in approximately $427 in loss sales. MIR 162 is an insect-resistant strain of GMO corn that was approved in Europe and the U.S. but illegal in China until late 2014.
Although Viptera is estimated to have been planted on only about three percent of U.S. farm acreage, the commingling of corn from various sources at corn distribution centers makes contamination with trace amounts of MIR 162 difficult to predict or control. Chinese officials say their concern for the safety of genetically engineered food precipitated the ban.
Syngenta Lawsuit Allegations
The lawsuits filed by farmers and exporters allege that Syngenta attempted to commercialize a genetically modified corn seed product that had not been approved for sale in China by misleading the agriculture industry about China’s timeline for import approval and blame the company for an 11 cents per bushel decline in U.S. corn prices and estimated losses in excess of $1 billion, according to court documents.
Although China, a major U.S. corn buyer, approved imports of Viptera corn in December 2014, the damage had already been done. Cargill claims that the company’s sale of the unapproved seed cost it more than $90 million in losses. The lawsuits against Syngenta have been consolidated in Syngenta AG MIR162 Corn Litigation, U.S. District Court, District of Kansas.
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